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(1) Furthermore Elihu.—Elihu here hardly makes good the profession with which he starts, for he begins immediately to accuse Job in no measured language. Elihu makes, indeed, a great profession of wisdom, and expressly addresses himself to the wise (Job 34:2), and insists upon the necessity of discrimination (Job 34:3-4). It is to be observed that Job himself had given utterance to much the same sentiment in Job 12:11.
(5) For Job hath said.—See Job 13:18-19; Job 27:2, especially.
(6) Should I lie against my right?—Comp. Job 27:2-6.
My wound is incurable.—Literally, my arrow, i.e., the arrow which hath wounded me. (See Job 16:11; Job 17:1, &c.)
Without transgression.—That is to say, on my part. (See Job 16:17.) Some understand the former clause, “Notwithstanding my right, I am accounted a liar,” but the Authorised Version is more probably right.
(7) Who drinketh up scorning?—The same word had been applied to Job by Zophar (Job 11:3), “And when thou mockest, shall no man make thee ashamed?” and the same reproach by Eliphaz (Job 15:16).
(8) And walketh with wicked men.—This was the charge that was brought against Job by Eliphaz (Job 15:4-5; Job 22:15).
(9) It profiteth a man nothing.—Comp. what Job had said (Job 9:20-22; Job 9:30-31; Job 10:6-7; Job 10:14-15). Eliphaz had virtually said the same thing, though the form in which he cast it was the converse of this (see Job 22:3), for he had represented it as a matter of indifference to God whether man was righteous or not, which was, of course, to sap the foundations of all morality; for if God cares not whether man is righteous or not, it certainly cannot profit man to be righteous. On the other hand, Eliphaz had in form uttered the opposite doctrine (Job 22:21).
(10) Ye men of understanding.—Elihu now appeals to the men of understanding, by whom he can hardly mean the three friends of whom he has already spoken disparagingly, but seems rather to appeal to an audience, real or imagined, who are to decide on the merits of what he says. This is an incidental indication that we are scarcely intended to understand the long-continued argument as the record of an actual discussion. Elihu begins to take broader ground than the friends of Job, inasmuch as he concerns himself, not with the problems of God’s government, but with the impossibility of His acting unjustly (Genesis 18:25), and the reason he gives is somewhat strange—it is the fact that God is irresponsible, He has not been put in charge over the earth; but His authority is ultimate and original, and being so, He can have no personal interests to secure at all risks; He can only have in view the ultimate good of all His creatures, for, on the other hand, if He really desired to slay them, their breath is in His hands, and He would only have to recall it. The earth and all that is in it belongs to God: it is His own, and not another’s entrusted to Him; His self-interest, therefore, cannot come into collision with the welfare of His creatures, because their welfare is the welfare of that which is His—of that, therefore, in which He Himself has the largest interest. The argument is a somewhat strange one to us, but it is sound at bottom, for it recognises God as the prime origin and final hope of all His creatures, and assumes that His will can only be good, and that it must be the best because it is His. (Comp. St. John 10:12-13.)
(13) Who hath disposed the whole world?—Or, Who hath set the whole world upon Him? i.e., entrusted it to His care; in the other sense it means, “Who but He hath made the whole world, and who, therefore, can have the interest in it which He must have?”
(14) If he set his heart upon man.—Or, upon himself. It is ambiguous: and so, likewise, the next clause is. We must either regard it as the consequence of the former one—“If He set His heart upon Himself, had regard to His own interest, then He would gather unto Himself His own spirit and His own breath”—or we must do as some do: supply the “if” at the beginning of it, and read it as in the Authorised Version. In this sense, the setting His heart upon man would mean in a bad sense—to do him injury. In doing him injury He would, in fact, injure His own. The effect of His setting His heart on man would be that all flesh would perish together, and man would turn again to his dust; but then God would have injured His own, and not another’s, in so doing. It is hardly possible that the writer of this last clause should have been ignorant of Genesis 3:19. The speech of Elihu is marked with entire self-confidence.
(17) Shall even he. . . .—The argument is that one who holds such a position of absolute rule cannot be other than most just. He who is fit to rule must be just, and He who is the ultimate ruler must be fit to rule, and must, therefore, be just; but if He is absolutely just, how shall we condemn His government or Him on account of it, even though we cannot explain it all or reconcile it with our view of what is right?
Him that is most just, is rather him that is just and mighty, i.e., not only just, but able also to execute justice because mighty.
(18) Is it fit to say to a king?—The argument is from the less to the greater. “Who could challenge a king or princes? and if not a king, how much less the King of kings?” There is a strong ellipse in the Hebrew, but yet one that is naturally supplied. (Comp. Psalms 137:5.)
(20) In a moment shall they die—i.e., “they all alike die, rich and poor together; the hour of death is not hastened for the poor nor delayed for the rich. They all alike die.”
Even at midnight the people are troubled. . . .—It is hard to think that the writer did not know of Exodus 12:29. It is better to read these statements as habitual presents and not as futures: “In a moment they die, even at midnight—the people are shaken and pass away,” &c.
(21) His eyes are upon the ways of man.—He is not only just and mighty, but He is also all-wise; He cannot therefore err.
(22) There is no darkness.—As Job had perhaps seemed to imply in Job 24:13-16.
(23) For he will not lay upon man more than right—i.e., so much that he should enter into judgment with God. This is probably the meaning, as the Authorised Version; but some render, “He needeth not yet again to consider a man that he should go before God in judgment.” He hath no need to consider any man’s case twice or to rectify His first decision. He is infallible, and cannot do otherwise than right, whatever He does.
(24) Without number.—Rather, in an unsearchable manner, as before, Job 34:20, “without hand,” i.e., without human means.
(25) Therefore.—We should expect because rather; but the writer, believing in God’s justice, infers that since God acts thus He knoweth the works of man, and has grounds for acting as He acts.
(26) He striketh them as wicked men.—Rather, in the place of wicked men he striketh them: i.e., the wicked—that is, “He executeth His judgments in the sight of all beholders, striking down wicked men in their very place, so that there can be no doubt as to who are stricken or why they are stricken.”
(27) Because they turned back from him.—Elihu, therefore, as well as Job’s other friends, believed in the direct execution of God’s judgments.
(29) When he giveth quietness, who then can make trouble?—This is probably the meaning, but literally it is, Who can condemn?
Or against a man only.—Rather, against a man alike: i.e., it is all one in either case. He judges nations as He judges individuals, and individuals as He does nations.
(30) That the hypocrite reign not.—Rather, (whether God is provoked), on account of an ungodly man reigning, or by the snares of a whole people: i.e., the corruption of a nation, e.g., Sodom, &c.
(31, 32) I have borne chastisement . . .—These verses express the attitude that should be assumed towards God: one of submission and penitence.
(33) Should it be according to thy mind? is obscure from its abruptness. We understand it thus: “Should he recompense it (i.e., a man’s conduct) according to thy mind, with thy concurrence, whether thou refusest or whether thou choosest?”
And not I—i.e., “Then why not according as I refuse or choose? If thou art to influence and direct His dealing and government, why may not I? why may not any one? And if so, He is no longer supreme or absolute. What knowest thou, then? Speak, if thou hast anything to say to this reasoning.”
(34) Let men of understanding tell me.—Rather, Men of understanding will say to me, or, agree with me; and every wise man that heareth me will say, &c.
(36) My desire is that Job may be tried.—There seems to be reason to prefer the marginal rendering, and consider the words as addressed to God: “Oh my Father, let Job be tried, &c.” “Pater mi probetur Job,” Vulg. Elihu’s words cannot have fallen upon Job with more acceptance or with lighter weight than those of his other friends. He must have felt, however, that his cause was safe with God, whatever the misunderstanding of men.
Because of his answers for wicked men. Rather, his answering like wicked men.
(37) He clappeth his hands among us.—As though he were confident of victory in argument.
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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Job 34". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent